The Process of Development of Executive, Legislative and Administrative Power for the World-State

Sri Aurobindo describes a possible development of a World-State, somewhat along the lines we see in the way the United States developed with a central Federal government having legislative, executive and judicial powers to overrule and govern the individual states.  At the world level, such an executive and legislative authority would initially govern the relations between the various nations which constitute the world body.  The initial idea behind the League of Nations and later the United Nations was formulated to try to provide a forum and moderating influence on the relations between nations while the individual autonomy and sovereignty of each nation was preserved.  It is obvious that such a solution does not rise to the level of organisation and efficiency, nor have the ability to enforce or direct the actions of individual nations.  Thus, the larger global issues find no true solution.  Eventually, for such a body to succeed in its goal, it must acquire the ability to regulate, make laws and rules, and enforce them upon the nations, just as the federal authority in the United States has evolved in its relations to the individual constituent states.

Sri Aurobindo describes the steps in this proces:  “Our supposition for the moment is that a well-unified World-State with the nations for its provinces would be the final outcome.  At first taking up the regulation of international disputes and of economic treaties and relations, the international authority would start as an arbiter and an occasional executive power and change by degrees into a legislative body and a standing executive power.  Its legislation would be absolutely necessary in international matters, if fresh convulsions are to be avoided; for it is idle to suppose that any international arrangement, any ordering of the world arrived at after the close of a great war and upheaval could be permanent and definitive.  Injustice, inequalities, abnormalities, causes of quarrel or dissatisfaction would remain in the relations of nation with nation, continent with continent which would lead to fresh hostilities and explosions.  As these are prevented in the nation-State by the legislative authority which constantly modifies the existing system of things in conformity with new ideas, interests, forces and necessities, so it would have to be in the developing World-State.  The legislative power, as it developed, extended, regularised its action, powers and processes, would become more complex and would be bound to interfere at many points and override or substitute its own for the separate national action.  That would imply the growth also of its executive power and the development of an international executive organisation. … It would reduce the now free and separate nations first to the position of the States of the American union or the German empire and eventually perhaps to that of geographical provinces or departments of the single nation of mankind.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pp. 225-226


The Dynamic that Creates Ever-Increasing Unification of Powers in a World-State

Humanity in the past has tended to stumble into new forms and organisations of human activity through the play of circumstances.  Dynamic pressures led to warfare, economic development, joining together of peoples into communities, states and nations, and ever-new configurations of alliances, cooperative arrangements and defense pacts.  The inter-relationship of all aspects of life implies that military issues are very much impacted by economic issues, and vice versa, and both of them are impacted by and themselves impact other aspects of the administration of human affairs.

In recent years we have seen these factors play out in the global arena.  Economic disruption and warfare have created refugees, as well as mass starvation events and threatened global pandemics.  The industrial revolution has had an enormous impact on the environment and the climate, and we are witnessing species die-off at a rate that has not occurred in many thousands of years, if ever.  Trade practices and customs, local protectionist thoughts, and concerns about things such as genetically modified foods (GMO’s) expose fault lines in the free flow of trade.  The rise of the internet and the world-wide communications, and factors such as privacy risk that arise therefrom, present new challenges that people in different parts of the world look at from different perspectives and with different value-sets.

All of this implies that it is not sufficient for a world-state to simply adjudicate disputes to avoid outright warfare; or even to act as a referee in economic issues and disputes or in the setting up of global trade rules.  Eventually, every major aspect of human life will wind up needing to come under the purview of the world-state if it is to truly succeed in unifying humanity and solving the seemingly intractable problems confronting everyone.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Whatever authority were established, if it is to be a true authority in any degree and not a mere concert for palaver, would find itself called upon to act more and more frequently and to assume always increasing powers.  To avoid preventible disturbance and friction, to avert hereafter the recurrrence of troubles and disasters which in the beginning the first limitations of its powers had debarred the new authority from averting by a timely intervention before they came to a head, to bring about a coordination of activities for common ends, would be the principal motives impelling humanity to advance from a looser to a closer union, from a voluntary self-subordination in great and exceptional matters to an obligatory subordination in most matters. …  Science, thought and religion, the three great forces which in modern times tend increasingly to override national distinctions and point the race towards unity of life and spirit, would become more impatient of national barriers, hostilities and divisions and lend their powerful influence to the change.  The great struggle between Capital and Labour might become rapidly world-wide, arrive at such an international organisation as would precipitate the inevitable step or even present the actual crisis which would bring about the transformation.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 26, The Need of Administrative Unity, pp. 224-225

The Need for a World-State to Govern Economic and Commercial Interests and Activities Between Nations

Just as armed military force can be misused to bully, oppress or subjugate the free will of a people or a nation, so also, the economic powers can be similarly misused.  If a World-State comes about, and if it is able to gain ascendancy with respect to military forces and armaments, it will still be subject to instability resulting from economic powers being left outside its province of control.  Thus, the entire structure is subject to being undermined in this way.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The World-State even in its early and imperfect organisation must begin not only to concentrate military force in its hands, but to commence consciously in the beginning what the national State only arrived at by a slow and natural development, the ordering of the commercial, industrial, economic life of the race and the control at first, no doubt, only of the principal relations of international commerce, but inevitably in the end of its whole system and principles.  Since industry and trade are now five-sixths of social life and the economic principle the governing principle of society, a World-State which did not control human life in its chief principle and its largest activity would exist only in name.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 222-223

The Tremendous Power of Economic Weapons

Overwhelming military force is obviously very persuasive in the tension that arises between nation and nation; yet, one cannot overlook the essential nature of economic power and the tools of economic warfare in determining the balance of world affairs.  In many cases of open warfare, the tools of blockade and embargo have been used to cut off needed resources and supply lines, thereby starving the armies of the armaments, ordinance and other supplies they needed to prosecute the war.  During the second world war, the victorious allies added to this a punishing bombing campaign directed, not at the armies themselves, but at the factories and transportation and raw material resource locations.

In times of peace, that is to say, in the absence of active hostilities with military might, the tools of economic warfare are also used, in modern times perhaps more than previously, and the trade embargo, the banking embargo, punitive tariffs, currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, disruption of the communication systems such as the internet, hacking of sensitive data, or using the internet to deliver computer viruses or malware, and in some cases a strict blockade have been used to try to bring recalcitrant nations to the point where they will agree to do as the predominant power(s) wish.  All of these are elements of an ever-increasing power of economic warfare.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “It is clear that these weapons need not be employed for commercial purposes or motives only, they may be grasped at to defend or to attack any national interest, to enforce any claim of justice or injustice between nation and nation.  It has been shown into how tremendous a weapon commercial pressure can be turned when it is used as an aid to war.  If Germany was crushed in the end (n.b. 1st World War), the real means of victory was the blockade, the cutting off of money, resources and food and the ruin of industry and commerce.  For the military debacle was not directly due to military weakness, but primarily to the diminution and failure of resources, to exhaustion, semi-starvation and the moral depression of an intolerable position cut off from all hope of replenishment and recovery.  This lesson also may have in the future considerable application in a time of “peace”.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 221-222

Considering the Use of Economic Pressures In Lieu of a Central World-State Authority to Maintain Peace

Objections can be raised that even absent a world-state to manage events, warfare could be averted through use of other means.  Primary among these other means are economic pressures, such as boycotts, tariffs, embargoes and blockades.  These tools in fact have been wielded frequently over the last 100 years, and have been most effective, although not completely effective in achieving their stated goals, when a large and important bloc of countries work together to try to enforce the economic pressures.

The history of these measures shows that to the extent the actually are effective, they can drive the target nation to desperation and lead to the very type of military action that was to be avoided through use of these non-lethal mechanisms.  In fact, they have been used to precipitate actual warfare!  A case in point is the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, which was precipitated by the desire of the American government to have an “incident” to allow America to come into the war openly on the side of Great Britain.  The American government systematically embargoed steel, oil and other essential industrial raw materials and continued to tighten the economic screws on Japan during the summer and fall of 1941, in coordination with the British and the Dutch, and refused to heed requests for negotiation from the Japanese, in order to force the Japanese into the position of having to fight a war to not be totally brought to its knees by the force of the embargoes under which they were being pressured.  In this case, economic warfare preceded the start of open hostilities between Japan and the USA.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  The state of covert war will still continue; it may even take new and disastrous forms.  Deprived of other weapons the nations are bound to have increasing resort to the weapon of commercial pressure, as did Capital and Labour in their chronic state of “pacific” struggle with the limits of the national life.  The instruments would be different, but would follow the same principle, that of the strike and the lock-out which are on one side a combined passive resistance by the weaker party to enforce its claims, on the other a passive pressure by the stronger party to enforce its wishes.  Between nations, the corresponding weapon to the strike would be a commercial boycott, already used more than once in an unorganised fashion both in Asia and Europe and bound to be extremely effective and telling if organised even by a politically or commercial weak nation.  For the weaker nation is necessary to the stronger, if as nothing else, yet as a market or as a commercial and industrial victim.  The corresponding weapons to the lock-out would be the refusal of capital or machinery, the prohibition of all or of any needed imports into the offending or victim country, or even a naval blockade leading, if long maintained, to industrial ruin or to national starvation.”

The boycott was actually wielded effectively against the British Empire under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi in the attempt to achieve independence for India from its colony status under the British.  Embargoes have been used in the modern day against nations such as North Korea or Iran.  Prohibitive Tariffs were adopted in the 1930’s and led to a global freeze of commerce which deepened the Great Depression and eventually helped bring about conditions for another global conflagration.  Economic weapons are powerful, but eventually can lead to military hostilities.  They do not provide therefore a solution to the use of arms, but may actually bring about the use of arms.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 220-221

A Centralised World-State Is Required to Eliminate War Caused by Competing Economic Interests of Nations

Thoughtful human beings recognize that the scale, scope and destructive power of modern warfare, and the proliferation of weapons that can have incalculable and irreparably harmful side effects, such as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, means that it is perhaps the highest priority for humanity to find a way out of the inevitable outbreak of war.  After the First World War, the determination was made that a League of Nations working in concert, and a suppression of the aggressive power that started that particular war, would solve the problem and it became known as “the war to end all wars”.  That illusion was soon shattered as the League of Nations was unable to carry out any real mission to bring human harmony when the underlying competition and economic egoism of the various nations, who maintained their own military force as well, made such an attempt utterly impossible.  Soon it was seen that the suppressed power of Germany was able to rise up, re-arm, re-militarize and could react to the brutal impact of the suppression with a renewed vigor and a determination to put itself on an equal, or perhaps even, a superior footing to those who had defeated it in the First World War.  The United Nations came after that war, but it too has no real and substantive power to enforce anything, and the institution of the veto by a select group of major powers ensures that the competition can go on unabated, and eventually, warfare becomes inevitable.  Subsequent development of horrific weaponry that can bring on total destruction makes the stakes involved much higher, but no one has yet addressed the underlying causes and provided a solution.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “…how is war to be entirely prevented if the old state of commercial rivalry between politically separate nations is to be perpetuated?  If peace is still to be a covert war, an organisation of strife and rivalry, how is the physical shock to be prevented?  It may be said, through the regulation of the inevitable strife and rivalry by a state of law as in the competitive commercial life of a nation before the advent of Socialism.  But that was only possible because the competing individuals or combines were part of a single social organism subject to a single governmental authority and unable to assert their individual will of existence against it.  Such a regulation between nations can therefore have no other conclusion, logically or practically, than the formation of a centralised World-State.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pg. 220

Commercial Competitive Interests in the Absence of True Unity Inevitably Bring About War

The economic interdependence of nations has one effect of helping bring people together and help them realize their inter-relationships.  However, as long as people identify with separate nations, separate economic system, and cultural and religious backgrounds, the economic fusion cannot be sufficient to maintain peace.   Successful world trade requires a certain economic stability and operates best in an environment free from the disruption of war.  At the same time, if one nation or bloc feels that it is being ill-served by the trade relationships, or if it sees that it has military power sufficient to gain ascendancy over materials and markets, it has then an incentive to start a war, if necessary, to attain its objectives.  The warfare may begin on the economic level, with tariff barriers, restrictive trade rules and obstacles set up, and then matched by the other nations, but eventually, any stalemate on the economic level generally brings about the later employment of military force.  The history of the colonial empires and the wars fought to maintain and expand them is an example of this principle.  Even in today’s world, we see headlines about trade imbalances, exchange rate manipulation, trade embargoes and retaliatory tariffs being enacted.  Should negotiations fail to resolve these increasingly harsh measures, military conflict becomes highly probable.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “…because the organised units were politically separate and rival nations, their commercial interrelations became relations of rivalry and strife or rather a confused tangle of exchange and interdependence and hostile separatism.  Self-defense against each other by a wall of tariffs, a race for closed markets and fields of exploitation, a struggle for place or predominance in markets and fields which could not be monopolised and an attempt at mutual interpenetration in spite of tariff walls have been the chief features of this hostility and this separatism.  The outbreak of war under such conditions was only a matter of time; it was bound to come as soon as one nation or else one group of nations felt itself either unable to proceed farther by pacific means or threatened with the definite limitation of its expansion by the growing combination of its rivals.”

“War is no longer the legitimate child of earth-hunger, but the bastard offspring of wealth-hunger or commercialism with political ambition as its putative father.”

The rise of the multi-national corporation, no longer bound to one nation, has allowed corporate manipulation of nation against nation with respect to agricultural and trade goods and markets, and thus allowed tensions to be exacerbated as farmers, workers or businessmen in one nation are subject to new competitive pressures incited by the efforts of multi-national corporations, which leads to political pressure being exerted for action.  The concentration of wealth in a very few hands globally further accentuates the kind of manipulation that can play off one nation against another.  During the 1950’s American President Eisenhower gave a grave warning about the perils of the rise of what he termed the “military-industrial complex”.  We see this “complex” at work in the world today and the entire world is now under tremendous pressure and on the brink of full-scale economic or military warfare if cooler heads do not prevail.  Already proxy wars are being fought in various corners of the world and many millions of refugees have been created which put pressure on nations throughout the world on top of the economic and political pressures they are already facing.

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 219-220

The Tide of Commercialism

Eventually the tide of commercialism as the dominant theme of society will ebb, and the next phase of human development will rise.  It is evident from the force of the movement of commercialism, however, that it is fulfilling some real purpose in Nature’s evolutionary progression, and it retains its dynamism and continues to expand its reach.  It matters little whether the commercialism is founded in capitalism or socialism– they both represent the same principle of turning human life and activity into markers of economic value rather than some higher principle, with capitalism rewarding those who provide the capital or investment primarily, and socialism rewarding those who provide the input of labour primarily.

Even in times of extreme predominance of some principle or another, one can find seeds or small shoots sprouting up that represent the birth of the next principle.  We can see in our world today, an increase of religion, but also of spirituality, where individuals undertake to develop a direct relationship to the Spirit in whatever way, shape or form they happen to conceive of the Spirit, without necessarily wanting the intermediation of a church or religious institution.  This may very well represent a future phase, and given the development of the human being from the perspective of an evolution of consciousness, there is a high likelihood that this is the case, once the physical, vital and mental platform has been fully developed, exploited and solidified as a basis for humanity to move to the next phase.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The religious spirit is reviving and even the old discouraged religious creeds and forms are recovering a kind of vigour.  In the secular thought of mankind there are signs of an idealism which increasingly admits a spiritual element among its motives.  But all this is as yet slight and superficial; the body of thought and practice, the effective motive, the propelling impulsion remain untouched and unchanged.  That impulsion is still towards the industrialising of the human race and the perfection of the life of society as an economic and productive organism.  Nor is this spirit likely to die as yet by exhaustion, for it has not yet fulfilled itself and is growing, not declining in force.”

With regard to whether labour is able to supplant capital as the factor that dominates the commercial spirit, Sri Aurobindo observes:  “It will be a change from one side of economism to the other, but not a change from economism to the domination of some other and higher motive of human life.  The change itself is likely to be one of the chief factors with which international unification will have to deal and either its greatest aid or its greatest difficulty.”


Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 218-219

The Dominance of Commercialism Is Entrenched and Unlikely to Be Altered in the Near Term

As with every major upheaval in societal focus and organisation, the move towards commercialism as the dominant characteristic of society has both its proponents and detractors.  Particularly for those whose power and influence has been displaced by this change, there is a nostalgic desire to return to the past and embrace it as some kind of “golden age” of society.   But major changes in society tend to move forward, not backward, and the changes that were ushered in with this commercialism were perhaps necessary to address imbalances that had dominated societal organisation under the former systems.  Certainly, the dominance of a landed aristocracy and the subservience and slavery of large portions of humanity was something that had to disappear.  There are also those who feel that the rise of commercialism is a transitional stage in and of itself towards something that will bring about the tenets expressed so clearly during the French revolution, of “liberty, equality and fraternity”.  Certainly commercialism has seen the replacement of one elite ruling group by another.  The rise of socialism was expected to bring about the supremacy of labour over capital, yet it remains, one way or the other, rooted in the commercialist spirit.  If a change is to come, it must represent a further step forward along the development path, the full scope and direction of which is not yet fully obvious.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Certain prophetic voices announce indeed the speedy passing of the age of commercialism.  But it is not easy to see how this is to come about; certainly, it will not be by a reversion to the predominantly political spirit of the past or the temper and forms of the old aristocratic social type.  The sigh of the extreme conservative mind for the golden age of the past, which was not so golden as it appears to an imaginative eye in the distance, is a vain breath blown to the winds by the rush of the car of the Time-Spirit in the extreme velocity of its progress.  The end of commercialism can only come about either by some unexpected development of commercialism itself or through a reawakening of spirituality in the race and its coming to its own by the subordination of the political and economic motives of life to the spiritual motive.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pp. 217-218

Cultural Development As Seen Through the Lens of the Commercialist Priorities of the Modern Society

As a commercial mind-set has permeated society, it has dramatically changed the way humanity, in general, looks at the development of capabilities that are not strictly commercial in their application.  In the past, we have prized art, music, science, religious practice, education for the ways that they have enhanced the individual’s inner growth and attainments.  The ideal of the Renaissance Man, who developed capacities in these various ranges, and who attained knowledge and proficiency across a wide spectrum of development, was considered to be an ideal for Western man to attain to.  In the East, similar respect was afforded to those who developed their mental and spiritual-religious faculties without a specific economic motive.  In today’s world, such a concept has, however, faded away.  There are even universities in the United States that are proposing to dispense with majors in English, Philosophy or History in favor of “useful” subjects that have a specific economic value in modern society.  We are thus dispensing with the idea of a “liberal education in the humanities” in favor of utilitarian pursuits.  We are doing away with any concept of a higher purpose to human life.  The result of course will be the weakening of our adherence to values beyond a pure commercial view, and thus, reduce all of human achievement to some kind of numerical value on an economic scale.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “For the modern economic view of life, culture and its products have chiefly a decorative view; they are costly and desirable luxuries, not at all indispensable necessities.  Religion is in this view a by-product of the human mind with a very restricted utility — if indeed it is not a waste and a hindrance.  Education has a recognised importance but its object and form are no longer so much cultural as scientific, utilitarian and economic, its value the preparation of the efficient individual unit to take his place in the body of the economic organism.  Science is of immense importance not because it discovers the secrets of Nature for the advancement of knowledge, but because it utilises them for the creation of machinery and develops and organises the economic resources of the community.  The thought-power of the society, almost its soul-power — if it has any longer so unsubstantial and unproductive a thing as a soul — is not in its religion or its literature, although the former drags on a feeble existence and the latter teems and spawns, but in the daily Press primarily an instrument of commercialism and governed by the political and commercial spirit and not like literature a direct instrument of culture.”

“Free thought and culture remain on the surface of this great increasing mass of commercialism and influence and modify it, but are themselves more and more influenced, penetrated, coloured, subjugated by the economic, commercial and industrial view of human life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 25, War and the Need of Economic Unity, pg. 217